Was This a Massage – or Something Else?

He greeted me wearing a blue bathrobe and an amused smile and led me through the corridor to a private room.

I, too, was wearing a robe over my almost naked body. Obediently, I followed him into the room where he closed the door firmly behind me.

“You don’t have to submit to this,” I reminded myself silently as he removed his robe and I did the same.

It was 50 shades of grey and white outside on a wintry, snowy afternoon at the Eastman Spa, a destination health spa in the countryside of Quebec’s Eastern Townships.

I was booked for a 90-minute Watsu treatment, whatever that meant.

Watsu sounded vaguely Japanese, and I knew it involved a massage and water, which is why both Yves and I were wearing swimsuits.

Some sort of hydrotherapy with water jets, I figured.

But in the room we entered was a swimming pool, the size someone might have in a backyard.

“I can’t swim,” I confessed, hoping that might be the end of it so I could return to the lounge and sit near the fire with a cup of chamomile.

“No, no, you don’t have to swim,” he informed me, even more amused.

Silly me. But then what, I wondered, was I to do?

Disrobe, of course, as Yves did. And wade after him into the warm water.

“Do you get seasick?” he asked. “Will it bother you if your ears are in the water most of the time?”

In the water, Yves instructed me to stand against one wall of the pool. He took my hands and placed them together as in prayer. He touched my forehead.

“When I do this and only this,” he emphasized, “it will be over.”

He asked me to raise one leg at a time and, as I did so, he slipped a buoyancy ring below each knee.

He took my hands and drew me away from the wall and placed my right arm over his shoulder and around the back of his neck, as if to dance.

Then, oh! he slipped his other arm under my thighs so my body floated and my head lay flat in the water supported by his hand, my hearing muffled.

All the tension in the world melted into the water as I let go of everything, let this stranger hold me, move me, skim me over the water, keep me safe and keep me close.

For almost 90 minutes, I floated into nirvana. At times, he held my head away from his body, at times my face rested against his chest, tufts of hair tickling my nose.

One arm reached around my body to massage my back, another massaged my neck.

Watsu, after all, means water shiatsu.

My legs were positioned in a gentle stretch at times, my arms floating akimbo.

I was flotsam lost in some womb-like watery reverie, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, floating, carried, protected, massaged, stroked, held close, moistly cuddled, by a man who just happened to look like my ex-husband.

When it was over – already? so soon? – Yves floated me back to the wall and into an upright position. He placed my hands together and touched my forehead. He stepped back. I opened my eyes and came back into the world. We smiled. And when he wanted to know how it was, I considered a few inadequate superlatives, like amazing, utterly relaxing, unbelievable, transcendent.

“Like nothing I’ve ever experienced before,” I confessed.

Upstairs in our well-appointed room, my partner of many years was waiting for me.

“So, how was it?” he asked.

“Okay, I said. “Some guy schlepping me around a pool.”